TWO LEADERS AND AN ELECTION
India Today|September 28, 2020
TWO LEADERS AND AN ELECTION
MADHYA PRADESH BY POLLS
Rahul Noronha

Two years is a long time in politics and so in Madhya Pradesh two personalities, pitted against each other in the 2018 assembly election, now find themselves working together. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the BJP back then had Jyotiraditya Scindia firmly in their crosshairs; indeed, the BJP campaign in 2018 revolved around Scindia’s princely leg­acy (read: arrogant) versus Chouhan’s kisan putra (read: down­to­earth) image. ‘Maaf karo maharaj, hamare neta Shivraj’ was the BJP’s campaign couplet then, but today the ‘Maharaj’ and ‘Mama’ are twin faces of the BJP campaign for by elections in 28 assem­ bly segments. How does the BJP plan to bring these two contrasting political personalities together on the election stage? More importantly, what will a decisive win/ loss for the BJP signal for Scindia and Chouhan?

The dates haven’t been announced yet, but both the BJP and the Congress are gearing for a November battle coin­ciding with the Bihar election. Of the 28 seats, 25 were with the Congress, before these MLAs defected to the BJP, along with Scindia; three seats were vacated on the demise of the incumbents. The Gwalior­Chambal region accounts for 16 seats, and the BJP strategy here is to nullify the opposition campaign on the motives behind the defections. There is talk of substantial sums of money changing hands; a figure is also in circ­ulation and the electorate has latched on to it. Net result: the voters are fully expecting to be courted by these leaders. The fact that 14 of the turncoat MLAs were made ministers also establishes a quid pro quo. “The BJP is claiming the MLAs resigned because the 15­month Congress government only focused on Chhindwara, ex­chief minister Kamal Nath’s area, and that other regions of the state were ignored,” says politi­ cal analyst Girija Shankar. “To drive home the point, Chouhan and Scindia have also announced a huge number of development works in the constituencies going to the polls. The message is that the BJP will rectify the wrongs of the Congress,” he says.

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September 28, 2020